Telling Tales

14 Oct 2016 – 15 Feb 2017

Collyer Bristow Gallery

London, United Kingdom


Travel Information

  • Bus: 19, 38, 55, 243,25, 242, 521
  • Tube: Holborn, Chancery Lane

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Telling Tales is an exhibition rooted in fiction, in which worlds, truths and realities are created, dismantled and questioned.


The exhibition traces the fragile lines between utopian fantasy and its dissolution into dystopian realities. The artists are testing alternate narratives, realities and blueprints, examining life stories and unravelling (other)worldly designs "and the stories we tell ourselves to make sense of our existence" [Lex Thomas]. Telling Tales showcases the work of artists covering the age range of 19-84.The exhibition opens with Su Blackwell's fantastical fairy-tale castle picturing the archetypical childhood idyll seen through our collective Disney filtered lenses. We understand the fairy tale is a fiction but choose to believe in it – it's a known known. Countering this comforting fiction is Ami Clarke's Unknown Unknowns which quotes former US Secretary of Defence, Donald Rumsfeld's news briefing in the lead up to the Iraq war in 2002. "It's a statement that betrays itself, in its seemingly absurd investigation into what might be regarded as the truth." [Ami Clarke].

Negotiating the 20th and 21st century struggles of the individual through her work, lived and unlived echoes in the form of graphic novel and cartoons, Emma Talbot mines her own autobiography, as well as biographies of others, both real and imaginary which are then sliced open, edited and articulated. Sandra Lane's imaginary forms and fictional spaces relate to her 1960s childhood, when idealised domesticity was set against the optimism of space travel, UFO magazines, synthetic colours and materials back-lit by a sense of the metaphysical or the extraordinary. John Greenwood transposes both comedy and fantasy within his works, utilising the high-art tradition of 17th century still life painting combined with a Disney-esque absurdity.As Nicky Hodge's wrote in The Coruscating Eye, an essay about Eleanor Moreton's paintings: 'they convey illusions of fictional time and space. Although narrative could be said to be her subject matter, there are deliberate strategies embedded in the work to disrupt, confound and resist easy meaning.' Lex Thomas examines in her work a range of unexplained natural phenomena, such as the supernatural and paranormal as well as altered psychological states, magic, cults and UFO religions. Exploring social narratives and remembered truths, mythologies, folktales, parables and underworlds underpin the works of Ben Coode-Adams, Iain Andrews and Peter Davis which they retell, reimagine, embellish and from which they deviate. Blending mysterious representations of arcane customs embedded in traditional folklore with contemporary forms of communication, Adam Dix's paintings survey an imagined world of the present in which the past is reinterpreted, appearing in a strange futuristic landscape; a borderland between the virtual and the real.

Gordon Cheung's The Course of Empire 'glitch' prints are created from images appropriated from museum archives, propaganda and historical sources which are re-ordered through an open source code. The process is a metaphor for the transformation of time and space in the digital age and a gesture raising questions about the transient nature of history. Stella Kajombo's work is a performance piece (photographically documented by Srirat Jongsanguandi) in which she traces the stories of skin; touching upon historical links to slavery and caste systems as well as African ritual and history, classical and contemporary notions of beauty and the heritage of African music in 21st century culture. The performance documents her painting her own skin white and then back to black as she reinvents and re-presents herself, depicting a powerful sense of celebration and empowerment.Evy Jokhova questions her subjective role in and relationship to society, history, landscape and architecture. Graham Crowley's luminous landscapes track a fundamental narrative involving political, cultural and personal histories. His 'Drift' series demarcate a vivid memory of flooding in Ireland during his childhood, through which the lens of reality and perspective are disrupted. Objects and the invisible stories surrounding them are a constant draw for Annabel Dover's work and life and have become a tangle of information, stories, images and objects. Her work is part distillation, part peripatetic ramble through her wide-ranging influences, from archaeological illustration to the theories of Freud and much in between. Helen Bermingham works with the remembrance of objects, both disappearing and reappearing and through them the narratives of history are eroded and interrupted, fading and dissolving.

Sue Williams A'Court's reflective drawings on book covers present us with landscapes of imagined and unobtainable worlds. Timothy Shepard's landscapes derive from the overlaying of perceptions, memory and impressions of a particular place. Hundreds of image fragments taken from photographs of real places are reassembled to form a picture, interconnecting the actual and imagined. Richard Galpin engages with processes of change and transformation in the urban environment. He disassembles, stripping and peels back imagery of cityscapes, revealing other structures, networks and abstracted cityscapes making use of constructive and destructive processes.

Monica Ursina Jäger's work is characterised by an engagement with the natural and constructed environment, her cognitive-map-like use of imagery, alongside linear architectural structures, gives one a sense of both everyday and fantastical moments of overlap between the many signifiers by which we 'read' physical environments and recall our experiences of them. Tom Down's work revolves around romanticised landscapes. His paintings are based on low-fi physical models, built deliberately quickly so they look as if they might fall apart at any second. They are all references to the artifice of the thing, a constant reminder that you are looking at a facsimile of a place rather than the place itself.

EJ Major's From a Distance addresses the reading of the same book at different times and in different places by the same person. Major reproduces pages of William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying from a copy she read and annotated herself, at the age of 17. The reproduced pages are further annotated by the artist as an adult with images of illustrations based on those found in children's Brownie and Scout annuals, which obscure much of the text on the reproduced pages. Simon Leahy-Clark removes narratives and texts, stripping newspaper of its informative qualities, whilst drawing attention to the qualities of the material itself, the underlying structure and the information within it.

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